Fraudsters posing as police steal $6,000 from Victoria woman

Senior bilked for $6,000

Victoria police have issued a warning after a woman lost $6,000 to fraudsters claiming to be with the detachment.

Police said the woman contacted them Wednesday, saying she received a call from a toll-free number. An automated message said her social insurance number had been compromised and prompted her to press a button to speak with police.

That led her to a man who said he was with the RCMP, and that officers would not be going to her residence due to COVID-19.

He asked her about her local police department, and when he found out it was Victoria he transferred the call to someone claiming to be a Victoria police officer.

At that point, the victim was told to withdraw money from the bank and deposit it in a bitcoin machine that would transfer it to the federal government. She was then told that the government would confirm a new social insurance number for her and then return the money.

Police described the people involved in the fraud as “often both aggressive and convincing,” and said the Victoria department would never demand cash to resolve an incident and would not ask that funds be transferred through bitcoin.

If you receive a call like this, hang up, police said.

Should you respond to such a call and end up providing personal information or money, contact your financial institutions, ensure unauthorized payments are stopped and let them know about the fraud.

Fraud should also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or antifraudcentre-centreantifraud.ca.


Man bear sprays multiple people near English Bay

Arrest after bear spray attack

A man was taken into police custody after reportedly bear spraying "a number of people" near English Bay on Wednesday. 

Vancouver police responded to multiple calls about a man approaching people and deploying bear spray in the Denman Street and Beach Avenue area shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 12 , wrote VPD Sgt. Aaron Roed in an email. 

The man allegedly sprayed several people with bear deterrent before he fled, only to be chased down and apprehended by a witness. The witness managed to hold him down until VPD officers arrived, according to police. 

Police said the suspect, a 27-year-old man of no fixed address, did not appear to know any of the victims. 

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services "decontaminated" two victims at the scene, while the suspect was arrested and transported to jail following the incident.

Police are recommending the man be charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, and one count of failure to comply with a probation order. Those recommendations have been submitted to the Crown for review. 

BC had 84 new cases of COVID-19, no deaths, in last 24 hours

84 new virus cases, 0 deaths

Another 84 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were identified in British Columbia over the past 24 hours, continuing the trend of relatively high daily counts the province has seen this week. But just one of the new cases came from the Interior Health region.

The new cases bring the total number of positive tests since the start of the pandemic to 4,358, 399 of which have come from the Interior of the province. There are now 629 active cases in the province, bringing the total number of active cases closer to the peak of just over 700 that B.C. saw in early May.

Twelve people across B.C. are now hospitalized with COVID-19, up from nine on Thursday. Four people are being treated in intensive care.

No new COVID-related deaths occurred in the province, and the total deaths remain at 196.

A new outbreak has been declared Friday at New Westminster's Queen's Park Care Centre. There are now active outbreaks at seven long-term care facilities and two acute care facilities.

"We have it within our ability to make the changes we need to bend our pandemic curve back down and continue in our B.C. restart, but it takes the combined efforts of everyone, not just a few,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry in a statement.

"Keeping a safe distance from people you don't know or who are not in your close group of family and friends is an important way to protect yourself from COVID-19 transmission. And always stay home and stay away from others if you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild.”

Without providing details, Dr. Henry added that surveillance and enforcement operations have resulted in the closures of bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the Vancouver Coastal region.


Woman arrested after lengthy standoff in Victoria

Long standoff ends in arrest

The Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team arrested a woman early Friday after a pair of break-ins and a lengthy standoff — just hours after another standoff ended on Cook Street.

Victoria police said they were called about 8:20 p.m. Thursday to a Frances Avenue vehicle dealership, in the Burnside-Gorge area, for a report that a woman had broken in. She reportedly tried to steal a vehicle from inside and drove it into the dealership’s garage doors.

She then fled, leaving the vehicle running, the report said.

Police began a search, only to be called about 10:40 p.m. to a home in the 500 block of Burnside Road East, where the residents said they had returned to find an unknown woman inside.

By the time officers had arrived, the woman had barricaded herself in the basement.

Officers communicated with her and were able to confirm that she was the suspect in the break-and-enter at the dealership.

After several hours of negotiation, officers from the Emergency Response Team entered the house about 2:15 a.m., using a noise-distraction device and other means to take the woman into custody.

She was taken to hospital for assessment and medically cleared.

Charges of break-and-enter with intent are being recommended.

The earlier standoff, which started with a call about a robbery at a Cook Street housing complex, ended about 6 p.m. when police took one man into custody. At least one other person is still at large, police said.

Cook between Bay Street and Queens Avenue was closed during the operation, which lasted more than 10 hours.

Victoria police spokesman Bowen Osoko said the Emergency Response Team is called to deal with situations in quick succession more often than people might think.

“They do a couple of hundred deployments a year on average.”

Charges for fatal stabbing

A 23-year-old Victoria man has been arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing of a harm reduction worker in Vancouver.

A statement from Vancouver police says Maximus Hayes was arrested Thursday in North Vancouver.

A charge of manslaughter has now been approved and documents show Hayes remains in custody and is due to return to court in Vancouver on Aug. 28.

Thomus Donaghy was working at the overdose prevention site at St. Paul's Hospital on July 27 when he stepped outside for a break and was fatally stabbed.

Co-workers described him as "easy going" and "happy-go-lucky" and say the 41-year-old had been working at overdose prevention sites for four years.

Police say an appeal for information led to tips that helped them identify a suspect and make an arrest in Vancouver's ninth homicide of the year.

WorkSafeBC rolls out request for stress balls

WorkSafe wants stress balls

Stress balls.

That’s what B.C’s workplace safety regulator wants to buy as part of promotional merchandise offerings.

Meanwhile, cash problems prevent WorkSafeBC from assisting employers with COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).

BC NDP cabinet members won’t discuss the issue but the Liberal opposition is livid.

WorkSafeBC put out a request for proposals (RFP) August 4 seeking 250 stress balls; 3,000 pens, 50 microfleece hoodies; 50 soft-shell jackets; 1,000 tote bags; 500 embossed, leather-bound journals; 250 ball caps; 250 tumblers, 1,000 lanyards; 250 power bank chargers; 500 reflective safety flashers and 250 stainless steel water bottles.

Items were to be branded for WorkSafeBC – which has adopted the slogans, ‘We’re doing our part’ or ‘I’m doing my part’ in its COVID-19 messaging.

The request was published on the BCBid site for government contracts this week.

The workplace safety regulator is in charge of setting and enforcing the rules for reopening businesses closed by the pandemic.

However, WorkSafeBC can’t afford to help businesses buy protective equipment because it has lost much of its $2.9 billion surplus in the recent stock market collapse, it was revealed in May.

That meant WorkSafeBC didn’t have a surplus to give employers partial refunds for masks, gloves, Plexiglas shields and other safety gear, NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains said at the time.

Bains’ office referred questions about the swag RFP to the regulator. Requests to Premier John Horgan were unanswered.

“It’s pretty bizarre,” Liberal opposition labour critic John Martin said. “It’s odd.”

He said thousands of businesses are struggling with increased operating costs and revenue, they need all the help they can get right now to keep their doors open.

“[Bains] really needs to explain this spending for swag,” the Chilliwack MLA said.

WorkSafeBC director of government and media relations Craig Fitzsimmons said current contracts for branded, promotional merchandise expire Jan. 31.

“We are seeking proposals through an open, fair, and transparent competitive bidding process,” he said.

He said the merchandise has two main purposes – for purchase by staff or for WorkSafeBC booths at health and safety conferences.

“The budgets for branded merchandise are set within WorkSafeBC departments, depending on their needs,” Fitzsimmons said.

He said the quantities listed in the RFP are estimates only to allow interested suppliers to propose pricing.

“The eventual contracts will be a standing agreement and purchases will be made on an as needed basis,” her said. “This means that if there isn’t a need for the branded merchandise, we won’t be buying any.”

Fitzsimmons stressed WorkSafeBC is aware many businesses are struggling during the pandemic.

“That’s why WorkSafeBC has allowed employers who pay their premiums quarterly to defer payments for six months,” Fitzsimmons said. “WorkSafeBC also announced in late May that it was waiving premiums on wages paid to furloughed workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.”

He said that change was retroactive to the March 15, 2020, start date of the subsidy and will continue for the duration of the program.

Martin said he understands having promotional merchandise available but said the timing couldn’t be worse.

“Put it on ice,” Martin said.

The agency’s priority right now should be worker safety, he said, noting the Liberals have proposed subsidizing PPE up to 30% of premiums.

On the WorkSafeBC finance side, Fitzsimmons said, “WorkSafeBC continues to exceed its target funding level, despite the volatility from the COVID-19 pandemic, with current funding estimates in the 145-150% range.”

“At this point, WorkSafeBC does not have a reliable estimate of expected investment income, premium revenues or claims costs for the year,” he added. “As such, we will not know the final impact of COVID-19 on our financial position for some time.”

Up to 183 patients to benefit from ALS drug funding in BC

ALS drug funding approved

British Columbia's Health Ministry has negotiated an agreement with a manufacturer to allow for coverage of a drug used to slow the symptoms of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

About 480 people in B.C. have been diagnosed with the fatal disease where patients typically become unable to move, speak, swallow and breathe as the condition becomes worse.

A statement from the ministry says negotiations between the drug maker, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp., and the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance meet B.C.'s cost mandate of about $120,000 per patient each year.

Health Canada approved the use of the drug Radicava, also know as edaravone, in 2018 for the treatment of ALS, the first therapy to be approved for the disease in 20 years.

The ministry says it is expected that between 66 and 183 patients will benefit from the coverage in the first year.

The ALS Society in B.C. has raised $1 million to further support patients with the disease and the B.C. government has matched the funds.

The $2 million will be used over the next five years to develop a centre in Vancouver that will serve patients and offer provincewide support through mobile clinics.

"The work of the ALS Society of B.C. helps provide care to patients, supports clinical trials and research," says Health Minister Adrian Dix in the statement. "This organization has done extraordinary things to enable patients to participate in their care, prolong survival, and improve well-being, and we are happy to support them in that great work."

Rent hike increase is frozen, but province says landlords can evict

Rent repayment plan out

A payment plan has been set out for renters in British Columbia who haven't been able to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic as a government moratorium on evictions ends on Sept. 1.

Renters in arrears between March 18 and Aug. 17 will have until at least next July to pay back the money owed to landlords.

The government says landlords and renters need to work out a payment plan with the extra payment due with the monthly rent.

The province has also extended its prohibition on rent increases, stopping landlords from raising rents until December.

It says anyone who was issued an increase should continue to pay the current amount.

The rental supplement remains available until the end of August at $500 a month for families and $300 for renters without dependents.

The government says it has helped more than 86,000 households with rent payments during the pandemic.

Ryan Reynolds asks young people to party responsibly this summer

Don't kill Reynolds' mom

Those curious about the dating habits of Ryan Reynolds's mother are in luck.

After Premier John Horgan called on local celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen for help in spreading the message about safe COVID-19 practices to younger people, Reynolds took to Twitter to respond Friday morning.

“Called your office. Left a message,” Reynolds tweeted to the Premier Friday morning. In the joke-filled “voicemail,” Reynolds tried to drive home the message around safe practices.

“Young folks in B.C. are partying, which is dangerous, and they probably don't know that thousands of young people aren't just getting sick from coronavirus, they're also dying from it too,” he said.

“Of course, it's terrible that it affects our most vulnerable. B.C. is home to some of coolest older people on earth – I mean, David Suzuki, he lives there.

“My mom, she doesn't want to be cooped up in her apartment all day, she wants to be out there cruising Kitsilano Beach, looking for some 30-something Abercrombie burnout to go full Mrs. Robinson on. She is insatiable.”

During Wednesday's press conference, Horgan said private house parties have been contributing to the spiking number of new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., largely in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver areas. Younger people, between the ages of 20 and 39 have seen the largest increase in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

“This is a call out to Deadpool right now," Horgan said Wednesday. “Ryan, we need your help out here, get in touch with us.”

And despite saying the public doesn't want medical advice from guys like him, Reynolds took up the call.

“I hope that young people in B.C. don't kill my mom frankly, or David Suzuki, or each other. Let's not kill anyone, I think that's reasonable,” he said.

Consumers will soon be able to track the cost of wholesale gas in BC

The cost of wholesale gas

The provincial government is adding a new layer of transparency to the price consumers pay at the pumps.

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Bruce Ralston announced Friday morning additional regulations that will allow consumers to track how prices are set at the wholesale level.

This is in addition to information now available that breaks down the costs gas stations currently pay for a litre of gas at the pumps.

The website, and all data collected, is done through the BC Utilities Commission.

"These new rules will impose requirements for companies that import, purchase, store and distribute gasoline and diesel products into the wholesale fuel market in British Columbia. It will apply to fuel wholesalers who purchase and supply gasoline and diesel fuel intended for gas stations that sell gasoline to B.C. drivers," said Ralston.

"Companies will have to begin providing regular submissions to the BCUC with detailed information on their fuel imports, bulk sales, wholesale prices and storage capacity."

Ralson says the first set of submissions from companies will be provided to the BCUC in October, and should be available for the public to scrutinize in November.

Through previous investigations by the BCUC, Ralston says four companies control about 90 per cent of the wholesale gas and diesel market in Southern B.C.

He anticipates these new sets of requirements will keep companies "accountable for unfair markups and cost increases that cannot be explained."

"What we expect is scrutiny, the public access to the way in which prices are set, will moderate and have an affect on prices," said Ralston.

"I certainly think when a company feels that people are looking over your shoulder, they are much more likely to be cautious in advancing unexplained spurts in prices that they were not obliged to explain in the past."

British Columbians not-so-savvy at home A/C use, leading to higher costs

A/C use costing big bucks

With the recent hot temperatures in British Columbia, not surprisingly, air conditioning use is on the rise.

According to a new report by BC Hydro titled,'Not so well-conditioned: How inefficient A/C use is leaving British Columbians out of pocket in the cold,' people could be saving money on their energy bills.

The additional usage is increasing summer energy bills by over $200.

The report indicates that residential air conditioning use has tripled to 34 per cent since 2001 and the number is expected to rise as 80 per cent of British Columbians are planning to spend more time at home as a result of COVID-19.  

The study indicates people living in the Southern Interior are using air conditioning the most, and as A/C use rises across the province, people are looking for ways to save money on their energy bills.

BC Hydro says their survey indicates that about 90 per cent of users are setting their air conditioning lower than the 25 degrees Celsius recommended by BC Hydro, and 30 per cent are using multiple portable units – generally the most inefficient type on the market.

BC Hydro recommends British Columbians take the following measures to save energy and money on air conditioning and keep cool at home:

  • Optimizing temperature: Cool homes to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer months when occupied, and the air conditioning should be turned off when unoccupied.
  • Cooling down with a fan: Running a fan nine hours a day over the summer costs just $7.
  • Closing the drapes and blinds: Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
  • Shutting doors and windows: If the temperature outside is warmer than inside, keep doors and windows closed to keep the cooler air in and the warm air out.
  • Limiting the use of large appliances: Use a microwave, crockpot or toaster oven to avoid the extra heat produced by larger appliances when preparing meals, and hang clothes to dry instead of using a dryer on hot days.

Port Moody police find elderly woman on floor after two days of silence

Senior on floor for days

It’s every family’s nightmare – an elderly relative has fallen and can’t reach a phone or answer a doorbell to communicate their emergency.

At least that’s what Port Moody police are surmising happened after a care aid called for a wellness check after she was unable to connect with her 89-year-old client after two days.

The care aid worker called police on Tuesday after receiving no response to attempts to have her answer her door on Sunday and Monday.

PMPD officers responded to the call for a wellness check about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, but had to enter the apartment when they couldn’t make contact, according to Sgt. Ian Morrison.

They found the woman on the floor unable to move.

However, still conscious, the officers were able to “talk to her and tried to reassure her,” Sgt. Morrison said.

Paramedics and Port Moody fire personnel arrived shortly after and transported her to hospital, where the woman is “expected to fully recover from her ordeal,” Morrison said in a press release.

He said the care aid did the right thing in calling police.

He advises people to consider emergency communications systems for elderly relatives to alert family members or emergency responders in the event of a fall or other emergency.

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